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Google just found malware apps hiding in the Play store that were downloaded over 500,000 times

Published Nov 25th, 2018 2:44PM EST
Google Play Store apps
Image: John G Mabanglo / Epa/Shutterstock

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Google has taken swift action after it was discovered that more than a dozen apps that install malware on user devices were found in the Google Play store.

The company has yanked the 13 Android apps, which included car and truck driving simulations as well as a couple that actually got featured in the store’s trending section. However, that removal came after a researcher claimed that at least 500,000 users had download the apps in total, risking the installation of malware on their devices.

From a report via NDTV Gadgets: “The apps not only showed no legitimate functionality but also hid in the handsets to make it easier to install malware … In a tweet [which you can read below] ESET security researcher Lukas Stefanko revealed details about the 13 malicious apps discovered in the Google Play Store. He claimed that these apps containing Android malware were downloaded over 560,000 times. Interestingly, all the apps listed a single developer named Luiz Pinto.”

The NDTV report goes to note the apps were basically disguised as games, but they didn’t work, and actually crashed every time they were launched. They included a luxury car driving simulator, and their thumbnail images showed graphics that made them seem legitimate. According to the tweet above, the apps would ask to install an additional APK, and Stefanko went on to post videos showing how they operate, which you can see here:

“It is not the first time that a huge number of Android users have been affected by malicious apps containing malware,” the NDTV piece rightly concludes. “Last year, an auto-clicking adware called Judy was discovered on 41 apps and said to have affected between 8.5 million and 36.5 million Android devices. Also, another botnet malware called FalseGuide had reportedly infected millions of Android devices via Google Play.”

Google, for its part, knows it needs to be more aggressive in this area. In January, the company disclosed that it had pulled more than 700,000 malicious apps from the Play Store last year.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.